MACCRAY school district plans for 4-day week to save money

Kindergarten class
Kindergarten class.
Tim Post/MPR Photo

The decision to go to a shorter school week at MACCRAY is all about money. MACCRAY serves 700 students in the small towns of Maynard, Clara City and Raymond.

Superintendent Greg Schmidt said shortening the week to four days means 23 fewer school days a year, which means 23 fewer days they'll have to bus kids to school and heat classrooms.

"The transportation alone, we're looking at $65,000. We're also looking at a bunch of other things, including energy savings, that will have about another $20,000 in savings," Schmidt said.

Schmidt said $85,000 might not sound like much, but it's a significant savings in a district with an annual budget of $7 million a year. He said the board will meet again on Friday to find ways to cut an additional $200,000 from next year's budget.

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Schmidt said finding research on a shorter week's effect on students hasn't been easy. He said the best information they've found has come from school districts in South Dakota and Colorado that have already switched to four day weeks.

"They don't see a noticeable difference. They claim that achievement certainly doesn't go down, and in some cases goes up," Schmidt explained. "And they feel there's more time, because they have to do the administrative tasks in a classroom one less time a week, and classes are longer, there's more actual get down to business time, more academic time than under the current schedules."

Schmidt said each school day would be an hour longer, which over the course of a 36 week school year, would make up for the 23 Mondays the district would take off.

The MACCRAY school district has mulled over the money saving option in public meetings during the last three months.

During that time some parents have expressed concern about what their kids will do on the days off, or how they'll find daycare for younger students.

But in the end, Schmidt said parents would rather see a shorter school week, than cuts to programs.

"They said 'Let's try it, we can always go back to the five day school week, but let's try it and see if it works,'. So we've heard a lot more positive comments about than we've heard negative comments," Schmidt said.

Minnesota law does allow local districts to approve flexible school week schedules, and the statute specifically mentions four day weeks.

A statement from the Minnesota Department of Education said education commissioner Alice Seagren will review the MACCRAY proposal when she receives it. An education department spokesman said this is the first time the department has heard of a Minnesota district proposing to switch to a four day school week.